Travel and jet lag with a baby, a survivors guide!

By Kate, 20th July 2018

Are you are starting to feel a little anxious about the summer family holiday travel? I’m not talking are we going to make it to the champagne bar in time for a quick one before the flight takes off (Ha! gone are those days).  I’m talking managing the jet lag with a baby!

The good news is that you do not have to cancel all travel plans and confine yourself to the house for the rest of your child’s life. It is possible to have children who travel really well, if you keep a few things in mind.

Travel simple

The biggest mistake parents make is that they over-schedule themselves. They try to pack in all the fun and adventure they might normally have had back in their “child-free” days, forgetting an important fact: They have a child now. So keep it simple and try not to over schedule the days. That way you avoid over tiredness and you all feel well rested at the end of your travels.

Try and stick to your routine

An occasional car nap or later bedtime probably isn’t going to do too much harm. However if your baby has late bedtimes throughout the holiday, by the time you are a few days  in, chances are your child could have a complete meltdown as over tiredness kicks in.

It’s very normal for babies and toddlers to test the boundaries around sleep when they are somewhere new. Just because the rule is the rule at home, that does not necessarily mean the rule is the same at Grandma’s house. This may mean that your baby cries for some time at bedtime or has a night waking or two. The best way to handle it is to not do too much different than you would if the regression happened at home. You can go in every five minutes or so to offer a bit of reassurance, but other than that, don’t bend your rules. If you hang on tight to your consistency, within the first few nights, your child will feel settled and sleeping well again.

Make sure you bring your baby’s comforter or blanket

Children love familiarity. They find it comforting. So being away from home its a great idea to take their bed toy or comforter. If your like me you may want to pack an extra comforter. Just in case, dare I say it… loose one during the trip.

Keep it separate

Another big mistake parents make is to bed share with their baby or toddler while traveling. Bed sharing is a big no-no! Even it’s it is only for a few nights. If your baby decides this is her new preferred location, you could find yourself with problems when you get home.

Most hotels have a crib you can use or rent, or take your pack and play along and use that as a crib. If your child is eight months or older, my advice is to try to make some sort of a private space for your baby to sleep. This could be the bathroom (if it’s big enough). Anywhere that you can build some sort of a partition between you and your baby.  This way if she has a wake up in the middle of the night she is not so excited to see her two favorite people that she ends up wide awake thinking it’s play time! Of course, getting an extra bedroom for your child is great if that’s an option for you.

The flight

When it comes to surviving the plane ride, the best piece of advice I ever got about traveling with kids is just to ACCEPT the fact that you’re traveling with kids! So plan ahead and bring as many things that you can think of to keep your baby occupied and comfortable.

The jet lag!

Well-rested children handle jet lag much better than sleep-deprived adults. If your baby has had a great schedule leading up travel, he should slide into the new time zone without too much trouble. It is best to adjust to the new time zone as quickly as you can.

If you really feel like your baby needs an extra nap, try to limit it to 45 minutes. Try not to let her nap too close to bedtime. If it’s a choice between a strangely timed dinner-hour nap or an earlier bedtime, I suggest you go with the slightly earlier bedtime.

Sunlight is a useful tool in helping both you and your baby adjust to the new time zone. This is because light is the most powerful time cue our bodies have. During the day, when your child should be awake, spend as much time outside in the sunlight as possible. This will help get their internal clock back on schedule. Try to plan meals and socialising around the new time zone as well. Also try and get an hour or two of fresh air in the early afternoon.

Make sure you do just the opposite when evening rolls around. Use the blackout blinds, and keep light to a minimum a couple of hours before bedtime. This will help stimulate melatonin production, making them sleepier.

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